Barton Predicts Cable, Satellite Indecency Rules

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Congress will eventually try to apply indecency rules to cable and satellite, Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the powerful House Commerce Committee, said Monday. The industries will first be given a chance to self-regulate, but if past is prologue, "they will fail," he told a National Association of Broadcasters breakfast crowd in Las Vegas.

He went on to say that it is not the bunch but the few "bad apples" that compromise attempts to self-police. He suggested that adopting a ratings system for cable and satellite, or tiering services so that consumers can create their own buffet-style programming menu, are two possible routes to self-regulation.

The cable industry has been more receptive to the ratings route than tiering, which the industry, including a variety of smaller and niche programmers, argue undercuts the business model and threatens such niche services.

Barton suggested there was a fairly big window for such attempts, however, predicting that passage of a bill applying indecency rules to cable and satellite could be three or four years down the road, and would not be this year.

Fred Upton, chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, said that he expects the indecency bill to come to a vote within the next several weeks--at one time he had hopes it would be on the president's desk by the end of March. He says that if the bill contains some of the Senate language on violence and other add-ons, it will be "tested" in court," and we'll have to see what happens.
The House bill is far simpler, bumping the fines by 10-fold and targeting performers.

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